• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Account for the much lower level of strike incidence in Britain in recent years. Are strikes 'withering away' as a feature of British industrial relations?

Extracts from this document...


Debbie Hardy 15/05/02 Account for the much lower level of strike incidence in Britain in recent years. Are strikes 'withering away' as a feature of British industrial relations? Strikes are often seen as workers most powerful weapon in a dispute because of the financial loss imposed upon the employer. They can generally be defined as a 'collective withdrawal from work by employees intended to modify employer behaviour'. The official definition of a strike in Britain are those lasting at least a day and involving at least ten workers, unless a total of 100 or more striker days is involved. Strikes are counted by the Employment Department, which uses reports from Unemployment Benefit offices, returns from some public sector organisations and newspapers and other sources, to identify stoppages. There are three main measures of strikes: the number of separate stoppages; the number of workers involved; and the number of days 'lost'. The number of recorded strikes was larger decade by decade in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The upward trend peaked in 1970 at 3906 strikes and by 1979 the number had fallen to 2080. But both the other two measures of strike activity - the number of workers involved and working days lost - were historically high in the 1970s. In the 1980s the decline in the number of strikes speeded up and there were major reductions in the other two measures of strike activity. ...read more.


Not only would the collaborative culture of 'beer and sandwiches at 10 Downing Street' end - a frontal attack to smash the militants' section of the trade unions would be launched. The Thatcher government saw its polices in the origins in the New Right, with its emphasis on the free working of markets and the need to minimise state interferences. As union bargaining strength was considered to stem from immunities in relation to industrial action and the 'coercive poor' of the closed shop these became central targets to the government's legislative programme. A policy of enterprise 'confinement' was pursued in restricting the scope of lawful industrial action. Immunities were seen by the government as unique 'privileges' putting trade unions 'above the law', and were narrowed significantly by successive pieces of legislation. As part of the government's step-by-step approach, the stream of Acts of Parliament since 1980 in dealing with trade unions altered the legal position of strikers and their unions. Over powerful unions were, in the eyes of the Conservative Party, too ready to use strikes to get their way: 'strikes are too often a weapon of first rather than last resort' (Conservative Party Manifesto, 1979). Strikes had become for the Conservative Party, the symbol of the abuse of their power by trade union. The 1982 Act on strikes made key alteration in the law, which severely reduced trade union immunity from legal action. If the unions were to avoid losing immunity, they would have to give up certain types of strike action. ...read more.


'Pendulum arbitration' (forced choice) is often seen as a solution but it is of limited value in practice. It is not good for multi issue disputes and is unhelpful for long-term relationships. The main reasons for the decline in strike activity then since 1979 appear to have been economic rather than the result of legislation. Rising unemployment between 1979 and 1986, and again between 1989 and 1993, reduced the willingness of employees to take strike action. This was accompanied by a significant restructuring of the economy, with a decline in strongly unionised and more strike prone traditional industries and a growth in poorly unionised and less strike prone service industries. Although strikes are much less frequent by any measure say than in the 1970s, they don't appear to be withering away. They still remain an important weapon for employees to put pressures on their employers. Recently, in Britain strikes have become more popular in the public services, eg in rail services. Furthermore, with Tony Blair following to a large extent the free market ideology of Thatcher, less regulation for workers may mean workers feel a greater need for strikes over pay and conditions. In conclusion therefore, various causes of the reduction of strike levels have acted in combination. Economic pressures, the changing distribution of employment and organisation change within the firm exerted the most clear cut effects. Changes in the law may have had a less direct influence, though it is hard to disentangle their effects from wider political forces. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Trade Unions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Trade Unions essays

  1. To what extent has British employment relations changed since 1980?

    1980, 82, 88 and 90. The act primarily focused on the reduction of Trade Union power, laws on picketing, reduction of ballots and the eventual abolishment of pre-closed shops. Before these acts were introduced, there was relatively little legislation effecting industrial relations.

  2. Causes of the General Strike

    However leaders of the Trade Union Congress were not totally happy about the proposed strikes and spent the next two days negotiating with the Government and mine owners. The meetings between the three parties never established to anything and the strike was now looking unavoidable.

  1. Explain fully and clearly the importance of negotiation within industrial relations to resolve disputes

    The objectives are: > Negotiate with the government. > To make a stand via strike. The teachers went on strike on the 26th of November and also earlier this year in March. There is an example of this in Appendix 1.

  2. What were the main effects of the 1979-1997 Conservative governments’ reforms to collective ...

    relations, which shifted from one focused on 'voluntary collective bargaining' in conditions of full employment and strong trade unions (with attempts at 'bargained corporatism' through 'social contracts) to neo-laissez-faire." Thatcherite and Tory ideology was indeed one of laissez-faire, liberalist (neo-unitarist)

  1. Why did the General Strike of 1926 take place?

    In the 1900s Britain's wealth was based upon trade and export of industrial goods- it had previously been a very strong country economically; however by 1914 it no longer was as other countries had begun to develop their industries. This affected the mining industry badly, since it had formerly been one of Britain's leading industries.

  2. Conflict at work: Industrial Disputes

    This way, the Police Federation is content and furthermore doesn't require any more financial input on the Home Secretary's part. This dispute sees no side of the battle on the winning team. The Home Office are livid at the fact that the Police Federation have slapped them in the face

  1. Discuss the view that industrial relations represents a redundant and anachronistic form of management ...

    removed manual workers right to be paid in cash. The final piece of legislation, the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act (1993) went as far as to abolish all wage councils, end minimum wage fixing, and even allowed employers to offer financial inducements to unionists to leave their union.

  2. This paper explores the history of government, employee and employer associations and their effects ...

    The fourth role of government is that of model employer. Government is the largest employer in Australia which as a direct consequence gives it substantial influence over the social and economic environment (Berrell, 1999). How it treats its own workers sends a strong signal to private employers.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work